Great Northern Amphitheatre

The Great Northern Amphitheatre located in the Great Northern Town Center in Helena.

He may not be Irish, but his fans sure don’t care.

Let it be said that Max Hay knows how to belt out a rollickin’ Irish drinkin’ song with the best of them.

You can quaff a cold one and check out the music yourself at Hay’s CD release party for “Party of One,” from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 30, at Miller’s Crossing.

Recorded live at McGuire’s Irish Pubs in Destin and Pensacola, Florida, two of Hay’s regular gigs around the country, it’s a lively mix of traditional songs with a few written by Shane MacGowan of the Pogues and one by the Weens. In the background, you just might hear the clinking of the beer mugs.

A solo performer, Hay’s adept at accompanying himself on a well traveled guitar, egg shakers and harmonica, joking that his delivery is “a full body workout.”

Thursday’s show, he’ll be playing a mix of folk, blues and Irish music.

Joining him on stage will be “vocal phenom” Britta Lee of Great Falls, who also performs under the name of Betty Jane. “Britta Lee has quite an extensive musical background,” Hay said. “She plays the piano and sings like a bird. She has an amazing voice and brings the house down wherever she plays.”

There will also be cake and door prizes.

“Irish drinking songs are meant to be sung in a pub with a lubricated audience,” he said of why he chose Miller’s, but he also likes that it’s a family-friendly atmosphere that welcomes all ages.

The almost-native Helenan returns to the Queen City for the summer and a number of gigs around the state. This CD is his sixth full-length album.

Monday, he played two tunes down at Performance Square, one of his original songs and one of his drinking tunes.

For nearly a decade Hay’s been on the road, playing music across four continents, including five countries, and the United States and living out of a car or van. He's been reveling in the joys of having an apartment for the summer and picking out things like area rugs as decor.

Hay didn’t set out to play drinking songs, he admitted. But he happened to play one during a party in 2008, and the crowd just wanted more.

Besides Irish and Scottish tunes, “I like a lot of blues, rock, reggae, hip-hop and top 40 dance music,” he said. But he’s also been known to mix in American country, Appalachian, Latin and Irish music, along with his “sharp-witted original songs” and covers.

His career in entertainment had an unlikely launch.

“When I was a kid, my dad made me get a job,” he said. He helped out at the Myrna Loy Center and the Civic Center, where he’d get paid to help acts unload and load their equipment.

“I got to load in for Lyle Lovett,” he recalled. "The band thought they were getting an experienced stage hand and instead they got a 13-year-old kid. I couldn’t believe people got paid to work on crews.”

“I started playing piano because my mom made me,” he said. “I had to play piano to play drums at Helena Middle School.” He also took guitar lessons and later added harmonica.

In his 20s he played in a few Missoula bands like Shot in the Foot and the Front Street Guitar Army.

In 2003 he attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, Arizona, worked as an audio engineer in Nashville and then signed on as a tour manager/sound guy for a country-rock band. For some gigs, he’d play the warmup, which got him back to focusing on his own music.

Hay tours relentlessly and often plays at Jesters Bar when he’s back in town for a visit.

He's played two music tours in Australia and performed in New Zealand, a month in Brazil, seven months in Shanghai as part of the Australian Sand Bar Band and all across the United States.

To find out more and purchase music, visit his website at maxhay.com.

“I just hope everyone comes out and checks it out,” he said of Thursday night.

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Thom Bridge can be reached at Thom.bridge@helenair.com

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